REVIEW: The Walk

5 10 2015

“To be on the wire is life – the rest is waiting,” opines Joe Gideon at the start of Bob Fosse’s 1979 film “All That Jazz.”  That quote is attributed to Karl Wallenda, a circus performer who, ironically, died from a fall the year prior to that film’s release after a stunt performed with no net.  Yet after watching Robert Zemeckis’ “The Walk,” Gideon’s words seem more in the spirit of Phillipe Petit, the wire-walker who traversed a cord strung between the Twin Towers in 1974.

Though structured like a standard heist flick – and providing all the expected thrills that should come along with the genre – the film is about more than just a clever plan or a physical accomplishment.  Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) similarly equates the wire with life, and his life is his art.  The “coup,” as he repeatedly refers to it, makes for a fun exercise, but the plot to hang a wire between the Twin Towers is merely the means to the end of his performance.

Perhaps those who do not wish to think much into his daring piece deride Petit’s walk as empty exhibtionism or some kind of stunt that prioritizes style over substance.  For this precise reason, he earns the sympathy and identification of co-writer and director Robert Zemeckis.

In “The Walk,” the subject and the storyteller are practically one and the same in their aesthetic philosophies.  Both view spectacle as a component of art, not its opponent. There’s a reason Zemeckis opts for a variation of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” as Petit glides along his wire as opposed to dramatic, triumphant underscoring. For these two artists, the purest beauty comes from achieving the previously unthinkable while operating at the highest of stakes (Petit with his a hundred-story height, Zemeckis with a hundred-million dollar budget).

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F.I.L.M. of the Week (September 4, 2009)

4 09 2009

This week’s “F.I.L.M. of the Week” is “Man on Wire.”  It is truly one of a kind: a documentary that feels like a movie.  I seldom watch documentaries, but I decided to watch it a few months ago because it had won the Oscar for Best Documentary and it had received unanimous critical praise.  The filmmakers tell the story of Philippe Petit, the daring trapeze artist who walked on a wire between the World Trade Center towers in 1973.

It’s nothing like a History Channel special, which the average moviegoer seems to group documentaries alongside.  Rather than recounting the events through interviews and pictures, the filmmakers have a cast reenact the events.  They also make a clever move in crafting the movie as if it were a heist film.  The result is a breath-taking, captivating, and delightful movie (three words I thought I would never use to describe a documentary.)